written by: drowningn00b
After the fantastically pleasant and calming “Unplugged” album, Acoustic Collabo returned last month with their new EP, “Love Letter”. They ditch the pure acoustic aesthetic and bring in an orchestra(!) for a fuller range of sounds beyond Kim Seungjae’s guitar and An Daeun’s voice. Where “Unplugged” seemed to go on longer than it should have, the concise package of “Love Letter” lets each song speak for itself and bring their full impact as stand-alone tracks.
The best aspect of Acoustic Collabo, besides their knack for creating engaging indie-pop, is the female part of the duo, An Daeun. At first glance, Ms. An should not be considered a talented vocalist. Her voice is small and high, which is a common vocal ruse less talented singers use to create the illusion of range. Her voice, though, is naturally high, and it only grows as she progresses through a song. She hits all her notes with ease, and this is evident in the feel-good, “love is in the air” track, “바람이 부네요 (The Wind Is Blowing)”. After the set-up from the instrumental intro, “발걸음 (Foot Steps)”, “The Wind is Blowing” is playful, lounge-style track reminiscent of SNSD’s “Talk to Me”. An Daeun commandeers this simple track and, alongside Mr. Kim’s harmonies, hugs you warmly in her voice. She takes you along the song and dares you not to feel the highs with her, or at the very least, smile at her happiness. The flute solo in the middle adds to the light-hearted feel already established.
Slowing things just a tad, “고백 (Confession)” finds Acoustic Collabo in the familiar territory of mid-tempo tracks. In their previous release, the simplicity of “Photo” and the vocal delivery from both members won me over to these two, and “Confession” continues that path. With a slower tempo, An Daeun’s voice takes it’s time over the notes and Seung Jae’s harmonies throughout help create a soothing soundscape that’s familiar, but still welcome. The last vocal track, “그대라서 (Because It’s You)”, takes aspects of both “Confession” and “The Wind is Blowing”, with a slow melody, an instrumental solo, and Ms. An both letting her voice sway along the quick pace of the guitar as well as keeping pace with it in various parts. Yes, these two are more of the same, but Acoustic Collabo’s approach to their material fits, and “Love Letter” slowly expands on their winning formula.
As much as I enjoyed this EP, the one problem I have are with the instrumental tracks, “Foot Steps” and “Waltz for U”.
Kim Seungjae plays solidly throughout “Love Letter”, but when the spotlight falls on him alone, he doesn’t take full advantage of it. At first listen, these two tracks are throw-away, but considering their inclusion in this mini, a second look was needed. Instruments can function at delivering emotions, and Monotoi’s “Gloomy Cat” made that wonderfully clear. It isn’t enough to play a guitar well, and Mr. Kim didn’t let the instruments he played say anything. In other words, they felt like karaoke-ready songs with the vocals stripped out; without something to take it’s place, the songs feel flat. “Foot Steps” and “Waltz for U” ultimately feel lackluster, a problem considering the great tracks they sandwich between them.
“Love Letter” marks a new period for Acoustic Collabo. They’re expanding their base formula of guitar and vocal pairing to include more instruments, thus increasing their range of musical expression. The jazz version to “Sweet Love” on the last record teased this new direction, and “Love Letter” puts that promise to work, with delightful results. Acoustic Collabo are comfortable in their own career at this point, so not only is “Love Letter” an obvious next step musically, but it begs the question why didn’t the indie duo think of this earlier? Whatever the answer, the growth in their talent is evident and the result is highly satisfying.